10 Things You Can Do To Prepare For Rosh Hashanah
Dvar Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states: “Noah was a completely righteous man in his generation” (Gen. 6:9).
The Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 108a, is bothered by the seemingly superfluous words “in his generation.” What are these extra words coming to teach us?
There are two opinions: 1) Praise of Noah. Even in an evil generation he was righteous. However, if he were in a righteous generation, he would have been even more righteous. 2) Denigration of Noah. In his own generation he was considered righteous, but had he lived in Avraham’s generation he would not have been considered righteous in comparison to Avraham.
The Chasam Sofer, a great rabbi, explained that there really is no argument between the two opinions. If Noah would have stayed the way he was in his own generation, then in Avraham’s generation he would not have been considered that righteous. However, the reality is that Noah would have been influenced by Avraham and have reached even greater heights of righteousness.
What do we learn from this? We are all affected by our environment. When we are close to people of good character, we are automatically influenced in positive directions. Choose well your friends and your community … they strongly impact your life!
Torah Thought by Rabbi David Silverberg
God’s instructions to Noach concerning the construction of the ark include the requirement that it be constructed with kinim (6:14), which is generally translated as “compartments.” Noach was to build separate compartments in the ark for the various species of animals that would live there during the flood. The Midrash Bereishit Rabba (31), however, offers a homiletic reading of the word kinim, associating it with the Hebrew word ken, which means “bird.” According to the Midrash, God here alludes to the kinim used as part of the purification process of the metzora, informing Noach that just as these kinim help to purify the metzora, so will the ark serve to “purify” Noach.
Why did Noach require “purification,” and in what way did this process resemble that undergone by the metzora?
Rav Baruch Yitzchak Yissachar Leventhal, in his Birkat Yitzchak (Jerusalem, 1946), suggests that the Midrash associates Noach with the metzora to underscore the contrast between them. As Rashi cites from the Midrash in his commentary to Sefer Vayikra (14:4), the birds used in the purification process of a metzora symbolize gossip and chatter, the primary sin for which the experience of tzara’at served as punishment. Noach was guilty of the precise opposite crime: whereas the gossip is guilty of unrestrained chatter, Noach did not speak enough. He isolated himself from his contemporaries rather than involving himself in an effort to exert a positive influence upon society. The construction of the ark was to “purify” Noach by causing him to interact with his peers and warn them of the consequences of their conduct. As Rashi writes (commenting this same verse – 6:14), God chose to have Noach build an ark, a project that took many years, so that his contemporaries would inquire about the project and he could then warn them about the impending disaster. In this way, the ark served to “purify” Noach, by forcing him to overcome his isolationist tendencies and make an effort to exert some positive influence upon his society. Whereas the process of tzara’at is intended to silence the metzora, to curb his tendency towards gossip and chatter, the ark was to purge Noach of his isolationism, and lead him towards some degree of involvement with his contemporaries.
Thus, the Midrash seeks to portray Noach and the metzora as opposite extremes on the spectrum of social engagement. The metzora is enchanted by the faults and shortcomings of his peers, and indulges in soliciting and disseminating information about the private lives of those around him. Noach, by contrast, responds to the ills of society by withdrawing from it, by residing in an “ark” of isolation, protecting himself while allowing everyone else to wallow in their corruption and depravity. The Midrash thereby instructs us to maintain a delicate balance between these two extremes, to involve ourselves in society, to take an interest in other people despite their shortcomings, while at the same time respecting their privacy and refraining from purposeless or harmful gossip and chatter.